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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  January 13, 2019 1:00am-2:01am PST

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away and alison motta was trying to convince the deputy or talk him into letting him speak to his parents because he'll never get to speak to them again. what about all the other victims here that can't speak to shirlee or thomas or roger or mary. . homecoming queen hannah hill was just 18 when she disappeared. everybody's sweetheart. >> this doesn't happen to people
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like her. what, why, where, when? >> and who? was it her boyfriend? they had fought before. >> did you verbally abuse her? >> yes. >> did you physically abuse her? >> yes. >> or was it another man in her life? they had been together the night she died. >> did you have sex with her? >> more than 13 years would go by as hannah's family fought for justice. two possible suspects. >> did you kill hannah hill? >> absolutely not. >> did your kid kill hannah hill? >> no. >> two trials. >> i was a wreck. it was just very intense. >> would there ever be justice for hannah hill? >> the truth always comes out.
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here's dennis murphy with our story. >> she was a girl who made big entrances. >> she could walk in the room and light up the place. she would make the whole room smile. >> she was always happy, just wanted to have fun. >> but it was her exit, her sudden disappearance, poof, gone from her house just like that, that enshrouded young hannah hill in mystery. >> ms. hill was last seen last wednesday. we're asking anyone with any information contact the police department detective bureau. >> she was 18 years old, just days from turning 19, and seemed
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to be in for the night. a former homecoming queen in her pjs phoning a few friends from her basement bedroom at her mom and dad's in akron, ohio. it's too late now, but you wish she could answer just one question. why did you leave the house so sudden that night? her brother justin doesn't know. >> she got dressed and said, i'm going out for a little while. i'll be right back. love you. >> never came back? >> never saw her again. >> the next night was going to be a red letter day for hannah. she would drive her geo prism to her new job, the company that makes atms. her boyfriend expected her to swing by his place in the morning to pick him up. he says she was a no-show. >> i remember waking up with this eerie gut feeling something wasn't right. i paged her, no answer.
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she always called me back. always. >> the kids relied on pagers back then. cell phones and text messaging were off in the future for hannah's circle of friends. her mom, kim, was a homemaker, and dad elza, was eking out a living as a boilermaker. >> she was a lovely, bubbly kid. she loved everybody. >> she liked the spice girls, and signed her letters with tiny pink hearts. a nice kid. these friends of hannah thought so. >> she was a very easygoing person. someone you could be friends with very easily. >> she was a great friend. a great girl. >> tara ferguson chls her best friend forever. >> she's so fun and silly and funny. >> there's no doubt she was a very pretty young girl. >> yes. she was a hopeless romantic, and she was bound trying to find
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that prince charming. >> now, not every teenage girl has the same definition of prince charming. hannah's boyfriend, brad, for instance, was a high school dropout with more than a few rough edges. but by all accounts, hannah was smitten. >> definitely her one true love. >> and brad became entranced by the girl with the brown eyes. >> we used to get compliments. people would say you look so cute together. >> but by spring of 1979, hannah's friends and family worried that she was growing distant. they feared that brad was tugging her into a world where she didn't belong. >> she didn't have her radar up? >> no. and that's where we differed.
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>> hannah disappeared. but where? friends and family were frantic. >> brad and i were calling each other back and forth. i'm combing the hills. i'm paging her. she's just not calling. that wasn't like her. >> we're freaking out now. so we make out thousands of flyers and we're passing them out. have you seen my sister? has anyone seen my sister? >> and you're hearing no, no, no, no. >> nothing. >> brad, the boyfriend, took it a step further. he went to the police station to confront the cops. >> my girlfriend was missing. it seemed to be too long. >> by tuesday she was missing more than a week. the police finally turned to the media. >> an 18-year-old girl has vanished, and tonight police are asking for your help. >> when it came across the cb that she was missing, it got really real.
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>> the very next morning, a breakthrough. news that police had located hannah's car. it was parked on a quiet dead-end street called cain road. detectives popped the trunk. it was worse than he had expected. >> you've seen a lot of stuff in a lot of years. how does this fit in the awful things that cops encounter? >> it's sickening. it's something you can't unsee. you will see that for the rest of your life. >> the body of hannah hill had been found naked from the waist down, posed, her shirt pulled up. >> at approximately 7:30 this morning, the auto belonging to missing person hannah hill was found on the side of the road. >> pictures of her car made the evening news. >> devastated. how could this happen? >> i just totally blacked out. every emotion hit me at once. >> what had happened to hannah? and why?
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>> and an even bigger question, who? who had killed hannah? police quickly focused on one man: hannah's boyfriend, brad. >> he was a drug dealer, and he liked to chase other girls. at walgreens, we want you, to keep doing you... and we'll take care of medicare part d. by helping you save up to $5 on each prescription... so you can get back to doing the things you love. stop in and start saving on your medicare part d prescriptions today... walgreens. trusted since 1901. with uncontrolled modor atopic dermatitis,a, you never know how your skin will look. and it can feel like no matter what you do,
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>> hannah hill was buried in a family plot in kentucky the day after what would have been her 19th birthday. for her friends in akron, the place where her car had been found became a place to honor her brief life. >> we put ribbons around the tree in remembrance. >> for the detective, the heat was on to find her killer. the akron police department was already facing intense scrutiny for taking a full week to find hannah's car. there it had sat, abandoned in the night on cain road, where just hours after hannah had disappeared, residents were calling police to come take a look. >> at least five neighbors called police and said, we have a car in our neighborhood that's totally unexplained, and you need to come out here. >> ed meyer is a reporter for the akron beacon journal. he says the neighbors saw car keys on the dashboard and hannah's name written in two places. in a black eye for the department that lingers to this
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day, police came and ticketed the car but failed to make the connection. >> major, how could this car have sat there since wednesday and not be connected with ms. hill? >> well, i think that's entirely possible for a car to be parked for many days anywhere in the city. >> did somebody drop the ball here, captain? >> again, like i say, that's under investigation. >> was the investigation compromised horribly because of that delay? the condition of the body, the forensic results? >> very possible. it gave time for whoever did this to cover his tracks. >> who did do it? in the week after hannah had vanished, all the while her body in the trunk of her car undetected, the police were trying to make sense of her boyfriend, brad oborn. when detectives checked him out with hannah's family, they got an earful. >> hannah's family wasn't a fan of her boyfriend. >> no, they didn't like him. and her father made no bones about it.
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>> i tried to put mr. oborn out of her life. but when kids know you don't like something, the farther they get from you. >> i probably told her she was better than that and she could do better and he wasn't good for her. >> he's got physical injuries,
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he's coming on like a house afire. >> right. either he was completely innocent and concerned about his girlfriend and really loved her, or he had done something and was going to use us as a tool. >> it could have fallen either way. >> right. right. >> the detective said brad was visibly upset and told him he had been a bad boyfriend. jealous, controlling. >> we found out that he was a drug dealer and that he liked to chase other girls. >> you know, it takes you pretty closely into means mode of opportunity country. >> you would think. >> hughes had tough questions for boyfriend brad. >> take off your shirt. we need to get all your photos. we want full fingerprints and palm prints. >> is he say, slow down. i need to talk tie lawyer here. >> no. never once said anything about an attorney, his rights. just, find my girlfriend. whatever you need, find my girlfriend. >> then came the awful day they
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discovered hannah's body. >> now we're hammering him. we're peppering him, if not you, who, basically. >> you think he's good for this crime. >> not for sure, but i want more information. give me something to go on. >> to detectives, brad was a puzzle. angry and a brace -- abrasive on one hand, yet seemingly concerned about hannah on the other. questions still swirled around brad in the hours after hannah's body was discovered. but now the case was about to spin off in a whole new direction. investigators had obtained hannah's phone logs and learned she had made four calls on her last night. one to a girlfriend, two to brad and another to a boy named denny ross. >> denny ross. does it mean anything to anybody? >> it doesn't mean anything to me. >> the detectives learn that this denny ross lived in a three-bedroom apartment next to a porn shop. they drove over and knocked on the door. >> denny ross answers the door. sees got a phone in his hand, and i say, hey, you know,
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detective hughes, i'd like to talk to you about this, and he says, well, i've got my attorney on the phone. >> an attorney? >> yes. i said, wow, that's a little different. >> coming up, there was an even more surprising admission from denny ross still to come about a visit from hannah the very night she died. amazon prime video is now on xfinity x1.
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investigators looking into the murder of hannah hill had followed her phone logs to the doorstep of 20-year-old denny ross. denny, it turned out, was a friend of hannah's boyfriend brad oborn. the kids knew him as a funhouse and a crash pad. >> were you surprised hannah was hanging with that crowd? >> no. i mean, we hung out with people that didn't do some great stuff, but i guess we just kind of thought -- not that it was okay, but we weren't doing it, so i guess we were pretty naive, too. >> denny was days into probation on a drug charge and asked to have his lawyer present when detectives arrived for a conversation. once the lawyer showed up, detectives took out a tape recorder and began an interview. denny told the detective he stayed in the night hannah disappeared, but then volunteered an astonishing bit of information. >> was there anybody here at the house with you? >> hannah slept over.
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>> hannah slept over wednesday evening? >> that makes him, in police jargon, the last known person to have seen her alive. >> absolutely. yes. >> her and i were having a conversation, and then, you know, one thing led to another. >> did you have sex with hannah? >> no, i did not. >> denny offered up a tip for the cops. take a look at hannah's boyfriend, brad oborn. >> maybe he heard she was seeing somebody else and there were many occasions that he would basically have hannah under his control. she could not go my where. >> but denny, not brad, was suddenly the person cops wanted to know a lot more about. at 3:00 a.m., they returned to denny's in force with a search warrant. the officers charging up these exterior stairs said they heard a thud. it wasn't long before one of them found a garbage bag beneath denny's window. in it?
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hannah's missing clothing. >> is that case closed? >> it's not case closed, but it's a big factor. >> i've always called that bag of evidence the key factor in this whole case. the magic bag. >> critics of the police work in the case, like local journalist ed meyer, were skeptical. >> we didn't buy it. why would he keep a potential bag of evidence that could hang him inside his apartment for a full week? >> denny insisted he did not toss the bag out the window. his fingerprints weren't found on it and it didn't match any of the garbage bags he had at home. the officers didn't check the temperature of the bag and couldn't say if it had been outside for minutes or for days. still, the next day denny was charged with hannah's rain and murder. >> breaking news at this hour, an arrest has been made in the murder of 18-year-old hannah hill. >> the arrest of good-time denny was incomprehensible to hannah's friends. >> i just can't see why someone
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we knew would want to hurt her. >> denny's father, alan ross, said he was stunned, too. >> you tell me who your boy is. who is denny ross? >> a young kid who got himself in a situation by telling the truth. >> the father says denny was an average, carefree kid, excited about a new job in internet marketing, not a killer. >> personality, demeanor. if he walked in the door, who would we meet? >> you would meet a person who doesn't stop smiling. it doesn't matter who you are, you would feel at home around him because he's got that personality. >> the medical examiner ruled hannah's death a homicide by asphyxiation, saying she was strangled to death. but little else was clear. for instance, they found semen inside the body during the autopsy, but said it wasn't worth anything because it had degraded in the week she was in the car. police never checked brad
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oborn's alibi the night she disappeared, never checked paper records, and never checked the carpet inside denny's apartment. >> they can spray a chemical on this alleged evidence and it can be tested. that was never done. >> visible blood spots were found on denny's apartment walls, but in the percent sent out for testing, none came back for hannah. >> no dna, no blood. you theorize she was killed there, but yet there's no trace of her. >> yep. >> nor was there a trace of denny in or around hannah's car. despite the ambiguous evidence, in october 2000, 20-year-old denny ross stood trial for the rape and murder of hannah hill. he pleaded not guilty and faced the death penalty if convicted. >> he beat her into submission so he could rape her.
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>> two young prosecutors argued their theory of the case, that inside that apartment denny had raped and killed hannah. they faced off with what the papers were calling a million-dollar defense dream team hired by denny's father. the lead attorney was david chesnau from las vegas. the girl's mother was called to the stand but not videoed. >> those were her favorite pants. >> it all came down to the contents of the trash bag found beneath the window. of all the tests run on the clothing spotted with blood, only one came back to denny, a small semen stain on the girl's underwear. hardly proof of a crime, said denny's lawyer. >> they're kids. they're fooling around. that doesn't mean he raped her. >> the case went to the jury. and in the midst of deliberations came a stunning turn. the judge, quite unexpectedly, walked into the jury room and declared a mistrial.
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she said she took that drastic measure because she was getting a report that one of the jurors was talking about a lie detector test not in evidence, a lie detector test brad oborn, hannah's boyfriend, had taken and passed. that, the judge said, was jury misconduct. >> the court has found that the jury is unable to fulfill the obligations required by law. >> the prosecution team was stunned. >> it was not a good day. >> nor was it a good day for the defense. >> everybody was brokenhearted, including denny. >> denny's team was even more brokenhearted to learn the jury had already reached a decision on the major counts. "dateline" talked to four jurors after the trial and they said they had sealed and delivered all the charges except the lesser charge. >> i voted not guilty. >> not guilty. >> not guilty. >> denny had come oh, so close to being acquitted of hannah's
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murder. because the jury voted in his favor, the lawyers went back to the courts and contested his being tried again because of double jeopardy. >> how does one get tried again for something he was found not guilty of? >> he was in jail for another year while they decided what to do with him. he was released a year later. but denny's freedom would be short-lived. you'll hear more about that later. for hannah's friends and family, the shock of her violent death, followed by an inconclusive trial, took it's toll. people still wondered if brad oborn had committed the murder. he did time for drugs and even tried to rob a bank. perhaps the hardest hit of all was hannah's mother, kim. >> it ripped our family apart.
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>> about six years ago, a figure of an angel appeared in a tree near where her car was found. a small shrine to her memory. for hannah's friend tara, it wasn't that she stopped thinking about her sweet friend but found she couldn't talk about it. emotions all bottled up. hannah frozen forever at 18. >> so you went on with your life and you had babies. >> yes. >> she never got to do that, did she? >> no. >> the case, meanwhile, was mostly in the deep freeze, making a glacial procession through the courts. seasons passed with no resolution. but that was about to change in startling fashion. >> coming up, a second trial, but at times it was hard to know exactly who was the defendant? was it denny ross? >> he was choking me from behind and just squeezing. >> or hannah's boyfriend? >> did you blame yourself for hannah's murder?
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the trial of denny ross for rape and murder had collapsed.
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the trial of denny ross for rape and murder had collapsed. years passed with the akron police department getting kicked in the teeth for losing the conviction with what so many people called sloppy police work. >> people remembered the case. it went down as a police fumble. >> that's probably what most people remember the most, but defending ourselves was not what we were concerned with. solving the case is what we were concerned with. >> with police and detectives
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did was work on the case. >> the case went down in the state of appeals, federal and the ohio supreme court. >> finally the ohio supreme court overturned lower court decisions and ruled that denny ross could be retried for hannah's murder. so this past august, 13 years after hannah's death, the second trial began. hannah's mother was dreading it, said best friend tara. >> kim said, i have to be here every day. and i know that was probably hard for her. that's just what she felt she had to do. >> the evidence will show that on that fateful evening of may 19, 1999 -- >> prosecutors anna feralia, matt meyer and bradley rotigam laid out their theory of the crime, that hannah hill was lured to denny's bachelor pad in what would be a fateful encounter. nearly 70 witnesses were called,
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some of them testifying off camera to things denny had told them over the years about hannah's death. >> denny had made a comment to me that he was going to [ bleep ] hannah. >> he said, we were all having sex, and i was having sex with this girl and ended up choking her -- excuse my language -- she died. >> this woman was a stripper back then and a regular at denny's place. for 12 years, she denied being there the night hannah died. but just months before the second trial, she changed her story, saying now she was there that night and hadn't spoken up earlier because she had been afraid. >> while you were there, what did you observe, what did you hear, what did you see? >> denny and hannah were in the bedroom. >> did you know what was going on in that bedroom? >> i had kind of a good idea. i knew they were [ bleep ] around, and when i heard her make weird sounds, i just said [ bleep ] i don't want to be around a crime scene and i left.
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>> but if they told you the sun comes up in the east, you get a second opinion. >> 10, 15 years later, i think you look at somebody for who they are when they come before you. the jury can believe some, all or none of what these people testified to. >> and then there were expert witnesses, like this pathologist who said that dna testing had advanced so much in the years since hannah's death that now they could detect denny's dna in blood droplets in hannah's pants discarded in that trash bag. and even on the t-shirt on hannah's body inside the car. >> one of the cuttings from inside the pockets is consistent with denny ross. >> the new evidence: his blood on the victim's clothing seemed to belie his testimony of two teenagers making out, kissing and stuff. >> there is usually no blood unless it is a violent exchange. >> one of the prosecutor's witnesses was this one, who said
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she first met denny in a bar in 2005, five years after hannah's death. denny was out on bond at the time. she said she invited him back to her place where she says he violently attacked her. >> how were his hands fixated on your neck? >> from behind. he was choking me from behind and just squeezing until i couldn't breathe. i couldn't breathe at all. i know i passed out a few times. >> and what are you doing at this point? >> pretending i'm dead hoping he can't see me breathe. >> choked during sex, battered and left for dead. the prosecution's implication was clear. is this what happened to hannah hill years before? >> people develop patterns of behavior. it's what we do. we form habits, and killers are no different. >> the prosecutors knew denny's lawyers would offer the jury an alternative killer in this trial. who would that be? why, brad oborn, the boyfriend.
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the prosecutors put brad on the stand. it was a risky strategy. >> i was a heroin addict for quite some time. >> the story brad told of his relationship with this nice girl hannah was for sure a warts and all presentation. >> i was not a good boyfriend. >> can you explain to us what "not a good boyfriend" means? >> i was abusive. i hit -- i abused her. >> did you verbally abuse her? >> yes. >> did you physically abuse her? >> judge: you need to answer out loud, please. >> yes. >> brad testified that just days before hannah disappeared, they
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had had a big fight about him cheating on her and said that's when she scratched him. >> does that pictures fairly and accurately represent the scratches that are on your arms? >> yes. >> most painful, he said, was the fact that he had introduced hannah to denny in the first place. >> so but for you, hannah hill would never have met denny ross. is that what you're saying, mr. oborn? >> yeah. >> did you blame yourself for hannah's murder? >> yes. >> do you still blame yourself for hannah's murder? >> yes. >> did you kill hannah hill? >> absolutely not. >> the prosecutors had had their chance to show brad as someone clearly not the killer. but now defense attorneys would have their crack at him. an all or nothing cross-examination. >> coming up, did brad have a motive for killing hannah? maybe something he had read in
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her secret diary. >> she wrote that she had gone to denny's. did you read that when you read her diary? >> when "dateline" continues. that enamel stays hat strong and resilient for a lifetime. the more that we can strengthen and re-harden that tooth surface, the whiter their patients' teeth are going to be. dentists are going to really want to recommend pronamel strong and bright. it helps to strengthen and re-harden the enamel. it also has stain lifting action. it's going to give their patients the protection that they need & the whiter teeth that they want. but when i started seeing things, i didn't know what was happening... so i kept it in. he started believing things that weren't true. i knew something was wrong... but i didn't say a word. during the course of their disease around 50% of people with parkinson's may experience hallucinations or delusions. but now, doctors are prescribing nuplazid.
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in pampers cruisers only pampers diapers are the number one choice of hospitals, nurses and parents. through 13 years of hearings, appeals and trials, denny ross always had one loyal person in his corner: his father alan. >> did your kid kill hannah hill? >> no. >> in a moment of rough sex that went bad?
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oh, my god, she's dead. put the body in the car. ditch the car. walk home. >> and then make yourself a suspect by telling the police she was there? no. no. my son didn't do this. >> alan sees hannah showing up at denny's apartment that night looking for a shoulder to cry on, the teenager upset that her boyfriend brad, the guy she recently scratched up, had cheated on her. the father said the night unfolded just as denny had told the cops. they fooled around a little, kissed and stuff, and hannah left a few hours later. had someone been waiting below for her to leave the notorious party house? >> so denny ross was framed by the true killer, is what you're saying? >> well, that's pretty obvious. >> that was the theory defense attorneys roger sinnenberg, larry whitney and donna coletta took to court. preparing for denny's trial number two was a daunting task. >> it turned out to be a 13-year investigation, so there was an awful lot of data. >> they insist denny was innocent.
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following the fallout by the akron p.d. and the failure to find hannah's car. >> once they dpound the bag outside the window, the case turned from an investigation in the death of hannah hill into an investigation of denny ross. >> denny's lawyers told the jurors about altogether things police had failed to do, like check hannah's pager records or do a luminol check of denny's place. they questioned how denny could kill hannah in his apartment and left no trace of the murder? >> no blood, no excrement, nothing that belonged to hannah hill, and yet that's where they say she was murdered. >> as for the so-called new blood evidence, denny's attorneys told jurors those spots were so tiny, they didn't prove anything. and also challenged the notion that bleeding necessarily proved a violent encounter. >> we all get paper cuts, don't we?
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>> correct. >> we get mosquito bites, don't we? >> yes. >> the defense team challenged the credibility of prosecution witnesses in denny's circle back when. for instance, the former stripper who, 12 years along, had changed her story now testifying she heard denny hurting hannah the night she died. the defense team got her to admit she had smoked a lot of pot that night and had a habit of lying, even lying in a formal pre-trial interview with denny's lawyer. >> so you decided it was better to lie to me. correct? >> yeah. >> it was in your best interest to lie to me. correct? >> yes. >> and when it came to this woman who had electrified the court by saying denny had attacked and choked her, defense attorneys had lost the pre-trial battle to keep her off the stand. they insisted that no matter what she had to say, she couldn't tell the jurors anything about what had happened to hannah. >> do you know where hannah hill was between may 19, 1999 at 9:00
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p.m. to may 20, 1999 at 2:00 a.m.? >> absolutely not. >> thank you. i have no further questions. >> defense attorneys said to focus on those other witnesses was the prosecutor's attempt to shift attention away from the true killer. >> the person who we still, to this day, believed killed hannah is her boyfriend. brad oborn's alibi as to where she was that night was he was at home watching television with his roommates, and they never interviewed the roommates. >> now denny's attorneys would have the shot at one man that could create reasonable doubt in their case: brad oborn. they began by attacking his depiction of himself as a bad boyfriend. >> you were a bad boyfriend but you were also abusive. >> correct. >> you hit this young girl. >> no, i didn't. >> you slapped her. >> no, i didn't. >> you kicked her. >> yes, i did. >> denny's lawyers tried to trip brad up on dates and times. >> you told us earlier today -- i just want to get this straight -- >> you're not trying to get it straight, you're trying to confuse me.
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>> but did brad have a motive for killing hannah? for an answer to that question, denny's attorneys would turn to hannah's diaries. reporter ed meyer. >> page after page of entries in her own handwriting. you could argue she was fed up with brad oborn and was reaching out on the very night she disappeared. >> that's going to be something for a jury to think about. >> it would be if i were sitting on a panel. >> the diary entries. speaking from her grave, hannah's own words telling jurors who she was thinking of: denny. here on november 11, again on december 2nd, and yet again on december 16th. in hannah's handwriting. denny. what's more, the defense got brad to admit he had read her diary cataloging the entrants of denny. >> i recognize that i read the book.
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>> you recognized that she had gone to denny's. did you read that when you read the book? >> i don't remember. >> was jealousy the motive? >> you were concerned denny would take her away? >> yes. >> you were concerned that any man would take her away? >> correct. >> it couldn't possibly lead tie conviction. inconclusive dna, a long string of sketchy witnesses, and most of all, an angry, abusive, jealous boyfriend. >> in your deliberations, ask yourself, against who is the evidence stronger? and if there is any kind of evidence against brad oborn, we've got reasonable doubt, then. >> had the defense made a persuasive case? for hannah's family and friends, there was now more waiting, and just one hope: justice for hannah. >> the truth always comes out no matter what it is.
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>> coming up, the verdict in the second trial of denny ross. >> we have two families out there. we had to take our time and make that right decision. at walgreens, we want you, to keep doing you... and we'll take care of medicare part d. by helping you save up to $5 on each prescription... so you can get back to doing the things you love. stop in and start saving on your medicare part d prescriptions today... walgreens. trusted since 1901. but he hasoke up wwork to so he took aleve. if he'd taken tylenol, he'd be stopping for more pills right now. only aleve has the strength to stop tough pain for up to 12 hours with just one pill. aleve. all day strong. ito take care of anyct messy situations.. and put irritation in its place.
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jurors deliberating, asked by the state to pass judgment on another human being. >> we have two families out there. we had to take our time and make that right decision. >> what would they make of the
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weeks of testimony? why a murder defendant who didn't even look like one? >> the first day i thought he was a lawyer. >> he had this boyish look as if to say, why am i here? i didn't do this. >> seven jurors in the case spoke to "dateline" and told us initially they were an evenly divided panel of 12. as they talked, it became apparent they regarded some of the prosecution witnesses as literally unbelievable. >> and you as a juror have to make a decision, do i believe this story this person is telling me? >> that's really hard. especially when they tell you how many drugs they put in their system. >> when it came to this woman, the one who testified about denny attacking and choking her, jurors said they believed her story about being assaulted. but nonetheless, her testimony was not a deciding factor in their final decision. >> you still would have gotten to where you got. >> yes. >> and once again, 13 years later, the investigation in the early days after hannah's disappearance still bedevilled the case.
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jurors said the police work left her with many unanswered questions. >> they didn't look at her pager and she was a major pager user. >> we can't figure out why they didn't luminol when they were first there. >> the wait was excruciating. >> it took a long time. >> yeah. >> the jurors said they weighed brad oborn's testimony carefully. >> did you believe his story? >> looking at his body language making contact with the jury, i believed him. >> none of us felt that it was him and none of his dna was there. >> so on friday, just after lunch, came word of a decision. lawyers, friends, family all assembled at the court. hannah's brother stayed away, shaky. >> i was at a friend's house waiting by the phone. i was terrified. >> all rise, please. >> in just moments, there was no more need for guesswork.
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>> count 1, is it your determination that defendant committed murder in this count in that he did purposely cause the death of hannah hill? is that your decision? >> yes, your honor. >> denny ross guilty on all five counts. in the back of the courtroom, hannah's friend tara was visibly shaken. >> i was a wreck. it was just very intense. >> i remember thinking, thank you, god, and a sense of relief all in one fell swoop. >> those long years of work for prosecutors and detectives had paid off. >> the only thing the state of ohio is going to say is that we are grateful to these jurors that they have finally provided an accounting for hannah hill's death. >> jurors told us that in the end it all came down to the blood evidence on hannah's clothes. >> the dna outweighed a lot of unknowns for us. >> it said denny ross was there.
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>> as a result of the hannah hill disappearance, the akron police department made many changes throughout the years, especially in the communications department to make sure mistakes like the failure to locate hannah's car never happen again. >> 13 years on, can akron residents be assured that the screw-up has been rectified? >> i believe so. there has been a lot of changes. >> denny ross was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for hannah's death. he won't serve that time for years to come. what the jurors didn't know is that he is already serving a 25-year sentence for the rape and attempted murder of this woman between the two trials. he will be 67 years old before he is eligible for parole. >> we're disappointed. we had hoped for a different result. >> denny's lawyers filed a request for a new trial, which was denied. they are appealing the
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conviction and sentencing, and if i had three wishes, all three of them would be to change that. i can't. >> on a rainy sunday after the verdict, hannah's friends and family gathered for a balloon release in her memory. they passed around sharpies and wrote little messages for the lost girl. her brother. >> i'm just so glad it's over with, finally. now i can start mourning. >> her father. >> dad always loved you. >> the best friend. >> i said, hannah baby, i love you and miss you so much.
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fly high, my bright star. love, tara. >> and then after a brief prayer, they stood by the pond and the brisk wind carried away their goodbyes. >> let go. >> farewell to hannah hill. never forgotten by her family and friends, or as it turned out, by the criminal justice system. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. god, no. please, no. this can't be real. >> a teenager, home alone in a night of terror. >> i would just stare at the windows and try to figure out how scared she must have been. >> on her body, like a signature, a handprint in blood. >> it was a crime of passion.


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